2 Corinthians


5. Exhortations, 6:14-7:4

i] Do not harness yourselves to an uneven team


Paul has just asked his readers to accept his ministry and respond in love toward him. He has done this knowing that many of the Corinthians have turned from him and followed other preachers with. So now, he warns his readers of the danger of associating with such false teachers. "He who has become righteous can have nothing to do with unrighteousness", Wendland. Calvin puts it this way, "He has exhorted them to show themselves amenable to him as to a father, and now with the right of a father he reproves the fault into which they have fallen."


i] Context: See 1:1-7. Paul initially presented his propositio, his proposition / thesis, in 2:14-17, and then went on to develop this in his probatio, rhetorical proofs, 3:1-6:13. This is now brought to a head with an exhortatio, exhortations, 6:14-7:4, before embarking on what is virtually a digressio, Paul's meeting with Titus and the collection for the saints, 7:5-9:15.

Although we may classify this passage as an exhortatio, it is not independent from Paul's main argument. In 3:1-6:13, Paul presents a defense of his apostolic ministry against those "who peddle the word of God" and go around implying that his sufferings, limitations, weakness, etc., disqualify him as a minister of the glory that is in Christ. As far as Paul is concerned, power lies in his weakness. Paul's argument moves in a number of concentric circles, but there is a sense where it ends up in the passage before us where he demands that his readers separate themselves from these apistoV, "unbelievers" = those who peddle the word of God / troublemakers in the church / false teachers (Paul is most likely referring to the judaizers).


ii] Background: See 1:1-7.


iii] Structure: Do not harness yourselves to an uneven team:

A call to have no dealings with the false apostles

Proposition / exhortation:

mh ginesqe, "do not become [unequally yoked]", v14a.

Five rhetorical questions, v14b-16a:

headed by the interrogative adjective tiV

and expecting the answer, "no way ..."

Three quotations from the Old Testament, v16b-18.

Concluding exhortation to holiness, 7:1.


Overall, there are five negative imperatives related to separating from what is unclean / defiles, and a concluding positive exhortation, 7:1, and there are seven promises which together make up two major promises, namely, God is present and active among his people, v16, and God will welcome and care for his people, v17-18.


iv] Interpretation:

Concluding the defense of his ministry, Paul now instructs his readers not to associate with those preachers in the congregation who proclaim a false gospel in opposition to his own apostolic gospel. This exhortation is supported positively and negatively from scripture.

In calling on the Corinthians to unyoke themselves from his opponents and to make room in their hearts for him, Paul uses the word apistoV to identify the opponent. The word has caused no end of confusion and has contributed to questions as to the authenticity of this passage of scripture. Most commentators and translators commonly take the word to mean "unbelievers", in the sense of non-Christians, unconverted Gentiles, so Thrall, Harris, Barnett, Barrett, Filson, Hughes, Martin, Furnish. This translation simply does not fit with the immediate context where Paul has encouraged the Corinthian believers to give their allegiance to him as their apostle, rather than the "false apostles" who are causing ructions within the congregation. This theme obviously continues within the passage before us. So, Paul is probably using the word for "apostate Christians", "false believers"; he still has in mind the "false apostles", the "peddlers", 2:17, the Judaizers, members of the circumcision party, Paul's competitors for the affection of the Corinthian believers, so Keener, Guthrie, cf., Webb, Unequally Yoked with Unbelievers, BSac. 149, 1992, 27-44, 162-79; Rensberger, 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 - A Fresh Examination, StBibT, 1978.

It goes without saying that great harm is done to relationships when apistoiV is taken to mean "unbelievers". Good and valid friendships, and even families, have suffered by the improper application of Paul's instruction not to partner with the false apostles.


v] Source:

It is often argued that 6:14-7:1 is an addition to the original letter, either an extract from one of Paul's first lost letters, or from the hand of another writer (Qumran community, or some other Jewish author). This argument is prompted by the view that there is no immediate connection between Paul's argument up to 6:13 and 6:14-7:1. It is argued that the issue of avoiding close contact with the world and its corruption is unrelated to the previous passage. This argument founders since the passage does logically follow on, given that the apistoiV, "unbelievers", is just another term for the "false apostles", "the peddlers", the judaizers who have been undermining Paul and his gospel in Corinth.

In support of an author other than Paul, it is noted that there is abundance of hapax legomena (words only used once in the NT), but as Hughes notes, there are some 50 such words in 2 Corinthians, so the presence of some rarely used words in this passage is not a substantial argument against Pauline authorship.


vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 6:14a

Exhortation, 6:14-7:1; i] Prohibition, v14a. Do not harness yourselves in an uneven team - to those who do not share your beliefs. Paul is referring to his opponents in the Corinthian congregation, those who question the apostolic gospel, false teacher, troublemakers.

eJterozugounteV (eJterozugew) pres. part. "[do not be] yoked together" - [do not become] yoked with an unequal / uneven yoke. An unequal yoke is necessary where different animals are being harnessed together, although note the OT instruction that an ass and an ox may not plow together. The participle with the imperative verb genesqe forms a present periphrastic construction, possibly emphasizing durative aspect; "never ever be harnessed in an uneven team."

apistoiV dat. adj. "with unbelievers" - to apostate believers. Dative of direct object after the verb "to be wrongly or poorly matched with." See above.


ii] Five rhetorical questions, v14b-16a. The five rhetorical questions serve to drive home Paul's point. Jesus has no part with Satan ("Belial", a common term for Satan, not generally used in the New Testament). A "believer" (a faithful believer) has no part with "an unbeliever" (an unfaithful believer). Paul's point is that they cannot be yoked together. Paul's final rhetorical question drives home his main point that a believer cannot get into a "double harness." The church is God's temple and so the membership cannot partner with false believers / the false apostles.

gar "for" - More reason / explanatory than cause, so introducing the basis of the exhortation.

tiV "what" - what [partnership]. Interrogative pronoun expecting the answer, "none at all / none whatsoever."

dikaiosunh/ (h) dat. "do righteousness" - is there to righteousness. A dative of possession, BDF 189(1), possibly interest, or reference. The verb to-be esti must be supplied. The word here is usually taken as ethical, but if Paul has in mind his opponents then it is possibly theological / forensic.

anomia/ (a) dat. "wickedness" - [and] to wickedness, lawlessness. The presence of the connective kai indicates that this dative takes the same classification as dikaiosunh, "righteousness"; "and wickedness." "What sharing in common belongs to righteousness and wickedness", Thrall.

metoch (h) "have in common" - partnership, kinship, association. Nominative subject of the assumed verb to-be.

koinwnia (a) "fellowship" - [or what] partnership, association, fellowship, sharing. Nominative subject of an assumed verb to-be.

fwti (wV wtoV) dat. "can light" - has light. Dative of possession, interest, or reference. Again the verb to-be esti must be supplied. The spiritual and moral opposite of darkness.

proV + acc. "with" - with [darkness]? The preposition here probably expresses association, as NIV.


de "[what]" - Transitional connective, indicating a step in the argument; tiV as above.

sumfwnhsiV (iV ewV) "harmony" - agreement, harmony, concord.

Cristou (oV) gen. "is there between Christ" - of christ. Genitive of direct object after the sun prefix verb "to make an agreement with"; "what accord has Christ with Beliel?" ESV. A dative variant exists.

proV + acc. "and [Belial]" - to [belial]. The preposition here expresses association; "with Belial." This is the only use of Beliar in the NT; usually Belial. The name is Satan's personal name and is only used in Jewish writings of the time and not in the OT. He is the personification of evil.

pistw/ dat. adj. "does a believer have" - [what part has] a believer. Again a dative of possession, possibly interest, or reference / respect; "what does a believer possess in common with an unbeliever (apostate believer)", Thrall. A genitive variant pistou, possibly attracted to Cristou. The adjective here may serve here as a noun, although this would be a rather early use of the term for a Christian. In the context it may serve to identify a member of the church who rests wholly on the apostolic faith, a person who is "trusting, "exercises faith", even in an ethical sense, "faithful, dependable."

meriV (iV ewV) "in common" - portion, part, lot. Often with meta to express possession in common.

meta + gen. "with" - with [apostate believers]. Expressing association, as NIV. The "unbeliever" is likely referring to the troublemakers.


vaw/ (oV) dat. "the temple" - [but/and what accord, harmony] has the temple, shrine [of god]. Again the dative is possessive. Plummer suggests that the comparison is between "God's sanctuary in which not even an image of Himself might be put up, and images of false God's." "Paul's point in this antithesis is that simultaneous involvement in the worship of the living God (= the temple of God) and the practices associated with the worship of lifeless images (= idols) is an impossibility", Harris.

qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive.

meta + gen. "and [idols]" - with [idols, false gods]. Here expressing association. The word eidwlwn, "idols", possibly represents "sin and uncleanness", Furnish.

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why ascent / approval / agreement between the two is not possible.

hJmeiV pro. "we" - we [are]. Emphatic by use and position. Not, "we individually", but "we the Christian community" indwelt by the Spirit of Christ when two or three meet together.

naoV (oV) "the temple" - a sanctuary. Predicate nominative. The definite article is used following the canon of Apollonius; see Grammatical Terms. For the temple itself the word iJeron would be used whereas the word naoV is used for the sanctuary. "Corporately the Christian community is the new divine sanctuary, the place where the living God most fully expresses his presence", Harris. A living God has a living sanctuary.

zwntoV (zaw) gen. pres. part. "of the living" - of a living [god]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting God. God is a living God as compared to the lifeless idols in pagan shrines.


iii] Old testament texts, v16b-18. a) Lev.26:11-12. Paul has personalized the quote "I will set my tabernacle in your midst" in view of Ezk.37:14, "God no longer dwells with his people in a sanctuary ...... he dwells in them, they are his temple." The text serves as a threefold promise: "I will live with"; "I will walk among"; and "I will be their God." God dwells with his gathered people in heaven and on earth, as well as dwelling within (in close fellowship with) the individual believer.

kaqwV "as [it is written]" - as, like [god said]. This comparative is often used to introduce a quote from scripture; "This is what God meant when he said", TCNT.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement, direct quotation / recitative.

en + dat. "with [them]" - [i will dwell] in [them]. Local, space; "in the midst of his people", incorporative union, or, "among / with them.

emperipathsw (emperipatew) fut. "walk among them" - [and] i will move about among them. Note the use of a double prefix en and peri in the verb.

aoutwn gen. pro" their [God]." - [and i will be] their [god and they will be my people]. Serving as the central statement of the covenant; "I am the Lord your God." The genitives autwn, "their", and mou, "my", are adjectival, relational.


b) Isaiah 52:11. Paul uses this quotation to draw a logical conclusion (dio, "therefore). The Corinthian believers are a people indwelt by the living God, and consequently a holy people, a people apart from evil. For Isaiah, it was separation from the influence of pagan religions; for the Corinthians it is separation from the influence of Paul's opponents, the trouble makers, the "peddlers", 2:17. As already noted, most commentators think that the exhortation calls on the Corinthians to "separate themselves from the pollution of the Gentile world", Barnett. This interpretation does not fit the context, nor Jesus' words "my prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one." For some commentators these words prompt a qualification, such that Paul is calling for "a partial separation - from unbelievers", Harris. The disconnect here with Jesus' life ("a wine bibber and glutton" and associate of "tax collectors and sinners" - as viewed by the religious elite, ie., Jesus associated with common folk) has eluded some commentators.

dio "therefore" - Inferential.

ek + gen. "out from" - [come, go] out of, from [middle]. Expressing separation; "away from."

autwn gen. pro. "them" - of them. Genitive complement following mesou, "middle of."

aforisqhte (aforizw) pas. imp. "be separate" - be separated [says the lord]. The passive may be taken as reflective; "separate yourselves."

akaqartou gen. adj. "unclean thing" - [do not touch] an unclean thing. The adjective serves as a substantive, genitive of direct object after the verb "to touch" (present tense so possibly "stop touching", Williams).


c) Ezekiel 20:34b. The three imperatives, come out, be separate and touch not, are now followed by three promises, "I will welcome you" being the first.

eisdexomai (eisdecomai) fut. "I will receive" - [and] i will receive [you]. As of receiving / welcoming someone into their home. "To receive with favor", Plummer, "with friendliness and therefore into fellowship", Grundmann. "Then I will make you welcome", Cassirer.


d) 2 Samuel 7:14. The second and third promise: I will be your Father, and you will be my children, cf., Jer.31:9, 31ff. This status is not on the basis of our purity, but by grace through faith in Christ, Gal.3:26, 4:6, Rom.8:15.

patera (hr roV) "a Father" - [and i will be to you] a father. God promised David and his royal line that he would a Father to them, a promise later extended to Israel as a whole, and now realized in the Israel of faith / believers.

uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - Dative of interest, advantage, "to / for you", or relational, "I will be your Father."

moi dat. pro. "my" - [and you will be] to me. Dative of interest, advantage, "sons and daughters to / for me", or possibly relational as NIV.

eiV + acc. "-" - into [sons and daughters]. A semitism; the preposition is being used to indicate that "sons and daughters" are intended predicate nominatives. Note how Paul adds qugateraV, "daughters", to the quote, giving equal status to males and females in the kingdom. The significance of the addition lies in the background context of a patriarchal culture.

pantokratwr (wr oroV) "Almighty" - [says lord] almighty. paV + kratoV = all powerful. "Exercising power over all things", BDF.


iv] Concluding positive exhortation - holiness. Given that God dwells with his people, we need to be holy. Paul may be referring to the importance of living a godly life, striving to be the person we are in Christ, both inwardly ("spirit", here meaning the inward self) and outwardly ("body"), and this out of respect for the holy God who dwells with us. Yet, it is likely that "holiness" here refers to being separate, set-apart. Paul wants his readers in Corinth to dissociate themselves from the false teachers who are peddling untruth in their midst.

oun "therefore" - Inferential; drawing a logical conclusion.

econteV (ecw) pres. part. "since we have" - having. The participle is adverbial, causal, as NIV; "because we have."

tautaV acc. pro. "these" - these [promises beloved]. Emphatic by position; "these great promises", Harris. Referring to the seven promises just outline by Paul.

kaqariswmen (kaqarizw) aor. subj. "let us purify" - let us cleanse, purify [ourselves]. Hortatory subjunctive.

apo + gen. "from" - Expressing separation; "by keeping away from."

pantoV gen. adj. "everything" - every. "Keep away from every possible form of defilement."

sarkoV (sarx koV) gen. "body [and spirit]" - [defilement, stain, pollution] of flesh [and of spirit]. The genitive, as with "spirit", is usually taken as verbal, objective. Paul will often use sarx negatively, but here the sense is probably neutral, so more like swma, "body", the outward self, with "spirit" being the inward self.

epitelounteV (epitelew) pres. part. "perfecting" - completing, perfecting / performing. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the hortatory subjunctive "let us purify"; "let us aim at a completely consecrated life", Barclay. Note how Barclay has given weight to the prefix epi and its directive force. This with the durative present tense gives the sense of constantly pushing toward a goal. Hughes take, "advance constantly in holiness", certainly draws out the durative nature of the verb, but misses on its directive force.

aJgiwsunhn (h) "holiness" - holiness. Accusative direct object of the participle "perfecting". The goal may well be moral holiness, purity, the perfection we possess in Christ, a holiness which we will never possess in our body of flesh, but one which we rightly press toward. Barnett argues that the context indicates that holiness is being used here in the sense of separation, of being set apart; "be set apart from evil."

en + dat. "out of [reverence]" - in [fear]. Here adverbial. Harris suggests three options: either causal, "because we fear God", NLT, as NIV; Circumstantial (modal, expressing manner), "in an atmosphere of reverential fear for God"; instrumental, "by living in awe of God", TEV.

qeou (oV) gen. "for God" - of god. The genitive is usually treated as verbal, objective.


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